The Machinery that Drives Education-Spending Decisions Inhibits Better Uses of Resources

December 2011

While school boards are ultimately responsible for approving decisions about resource use in public education, the truth is that school boards operate amidst a confluence of multilayered forces that are imposed from above (with federal and state layers), as well as from within the system (via labor, parent, and community groups) that actively shape the allocation of resources. This paper dives into the current machinery of resource allocation decisions, highlighting the effects of the multidimensional manner of how resource decisions are actually made, and the resulting consequences for:

  • The alignment of resources with stated goals
  • Public education pricing
  • System sustainability
  • The capacity of the system to adapt and innovate.

As each section illustrates, the existing structure for resource decisions has serious flaws that render it effectively dysfunctional against a set of expectations for an operation this size.

This paper was presented on December 1, 2011, at the "Rethinking Education Governance in the 21st Century" conference, hosted by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Center for American Progress. The paper will be published as a chapter in an upcoming book, Education Governance and Financial Decisionmaking (Brooking Press, 2013).

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